Skye Thomas

Skye Thomas
Writer, Rebel, and Soapbox Ranter

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Dove ad gets serious for Super Bowl

By Theresa Howard, USA TODAY

NEW YORK — In an ad arena better known for belly laughs, Dove will try to tug viewers' heartstrings with its first Super Bowl ad.

An inspirational ad from the beauty products maker aims to raise girls' self esteem with the message that real beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and colors. Helping girls accept themselves is a mission of Dove's five-year marketing strategy.

Dove is betting that the estimated 90 million viewers who'll tune in to ABC's Feb. 5 broadcast will notice the multiethnic ad as an interesting change of pace from monkeys, celebrities and flatulent horses. The risk is that the effect is akin to the proverbial jerked needle on the record putting a screeching halt to the party mood of Super Sunday.

"The contrast effect can work both ways," says Thomas Cline, professor of marketing at Saint Vincent College. "Are people going to see it as a positive emotion or see it as a U-turn away from, 'I was enjoying my beer, and you're making me think about family issues'? This is a potentially brilliant move if it isn't going to ruin the party."

Dove marketing director Philippe Harousseau says he is less concerned about the party than standing out from 50 other advertisers, including Unilever sibling Degree deodorant, who paid about $2.4 million each for 60 half-minute ad slots.

"Most American people will probably not expect to see an ad about self-esteem in the Super Bowl," he says. "The decision to invest the money is in line with the strategic commitment we are making. ... There will be surprise, and we anticipate that this will be an element of provoking a debate."

The ad is part of what Dove calls its Campaign for Real Beauty, an ongoing global ad effort based on debunking conventional beauty stereotypes. Much-noticed ads last summer featured unretouched, unabashed adult women, not models. This ad, by Ogilvy & Mather, features girls picked from schools, sports leagues and the Girl Scouts.

One dark-haired girl "wishes she were blonde." Another "thinks she's ugly." A red-haired girl "hates her freckles." The music is Cyndi Lauper's True Colors, sung by the Girl Scouts Chorus of Nassau County, N.Y.

The ad also promotes Dove's Self-Esteem Fund, started by the company with a $3 million donation, that supports the Girl Scouts' Uniquely Me program. It tells interested viewers they can "get involved" at Dove's website.

Gymnast Dominique Dawes, Olympic medalist and Uniquely Me spokeswoman, thinks many viewers will: "It's a powerful ad. There will be quite a bit of reaction to it."

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